“Warranted, if well used”: local Vermont clockmakers

Local History

For 45 years I have bought, sold and collected antique clocks. The subject of this article is Terry Type or Half Column & Splat clocks. These clocks are predominantly 30-hour clocks, meaning they need to be wound once a day.

Another feature on these clocks is their wooden movements. They have quarter-sawn oak plates and cherry gears. The only brass gear is the escape wheel.

Eli Terry of Plymouth, Connecticut, is credited with inventing these clock movements and held several patents. Other clockmakers soon produced similar wooden movements, some infringing on Terry patents. Connecticut in the 1820s-1840s was the center of clock production in this country. These Connecticut clockmakers were rapidly developing new and innovative clock movements.

Peddlers sold these Connecticut wood movements complete with weights and dials throughout New England. Vermont had a number of clockmakers producing Terry Type clocks utilizing these Connecticut movements. One of these clockmakers was Jason Rawson of Athens, Vermont. Rawson purchased his movements, dials and weights and manufactured the cases. He used the Connecticut components in his cases and pasted in his label as maker.

In the early 1830s Rawson was building Terry Type clocks in Holden, Massachusetts. The labels in these clocks read, “Improved Clocks by Jason Rawson, Holden, Mass.”

It was about 1840 that Rawson moved to Athens, Vermont and set up a clock factory. In the summer of 1840 there was a severe “freshet” that destroyed his factory. After the flood Rawson moved to Saxtons River and set up a new clock factory.

I own Rawson clocks with both Athens and Saxtons River labels. These old Yankees were very frugal. I cite one example. In my collection I have a Rawson clock with a Holden, Mass. label. Over-pasted over “Holden, Mass.” is Athens, Vermont. When Rawson moved to Athens he must have brought with him a few unused Holden labels. Being frugal he simply pasted a small label over “Holden, Mass.” with Athens, Vermont. Soon after he began using labels printed with Athens, Vermont.

Ron Patch
1840 Athens label. Photo by Ron Patch.

I also have a couple clocks he manufactured in Saxtons River. These clocks are dated 1841 and 1842. They are identical to his Athens clocks with one exception. His Athens labels were printed in Worcester, Mass., but his Saxtons River clock labels were printed in Bellows Falls.

Not a lot has been written regarding Rawson so researching him is difficult. I rely on what is available and my own observations I have made over the years. Further I talked with Lindy Larson of Westminster for what he might know.  Lindy is a well-known and knowledgeable dealer in antique clocks.

Both Rawson and Tuthill had their clock factories at the southern end of Saxtons River village near the bridge. Lindy said he had found remains of the old dam that supplied waterpower for the factories.

Tuthill made Terry Type clocks very similar to Rawson. Unlike Rawson, who purchased his movements, Tuthill is said to have made his own wooden movements. But times were changing and 30-hour brass movements had come to Vermont from Connecticut.

By 1842-1843 Tuthill was purchasing the new brass movements from Connecticut clockmakers and fitting them into OG cases. Tuthill is also known to have manufactured furniture, mostly chairs. As far as I know Rawson didn’t make a clock with a 30-hour brass movement.

By 1845 Rawson had moved to Watertown, N.Y. It is not known if he manufactured clocks there.

Collecting clocks and learning their history is a rewarding hobby. I encourage you to do so. The photo with this article is a Jason Rawson, Saxtons River, clock dated 1841, that I gave my sister, Norma Lasonde, about 25 years ago.

Ron Patch
J Rawson Saxtons River label 1841. Photo by Ron Patch.

On Saturday, May 27, the Chester Historical Society is having an antiques estate sale. We were donated the partial contents of an area home. Everything is antique and as found. Mark your calendars. It’s a sale you won’t want to miss.

Additionally, I have published a book with over 115 stories I have written for the Vermont Journal/Shopper. It’s complete as the stories were written and with photos. I hope to have it for sale May 27 at the estate sale.

Instead of an old saying I offer a handwritten inscription I once found inside an antique clock:

“I tell the time by night and day,

I am at work while others play,

So, now take this warning from me,

And serve thy God as I serve thee.”

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